Isaiah 29:11-19 (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
August 26, 2012
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 29:
And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.” And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” Ah, you who hide deep from the LORD your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
A creed is a statement of what we believe, teach, and confess. Our word “creed” comes from the Latin word credo, which means, “I believe.” As Lutheran Christians we believe and confess the three Ecumenical Creeds—the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. We believe and confess them because they are faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy Scriptures. In the Creeds we believe and confess that we are members of Christ’s holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the total number of those who believe in Christ. As individual members of Christ’s Church, the words of our Old Testament lesson this morning confront us with a number of questions.
First, how significant in my life is the understanding that God created me, that He “formed” me in my mother’s womb? Isaiah refers to our creator God as a potter and people are compared to clay. This comes out even more explicitly in Isaiah 64:11, “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isa 64:8 ESV) God “formed” each of us uniquely and specially, just as He “formed” the first man from the dust of the ground in Genesis 2:7. How important is this fact in our daily lives? You are God’s special, wonderful creation.
Many times we forget this. Do we not often live as though we created ourselves? President Obama has been criticized for his “You didn’t build that” comment. Don’t you and I do the same with God? Don’t we sometimes end up with the attitude, “God didn’t make me into the person I am. I did it on my own. I worked hard to get where I am at. I poured in the blood, sweat, and tears. I did the growing. I overcame the challenges to be who I am today.” When things go well, according to the way we want them to go, we often take the credit! But when things go the opposite direction, not according to the way we want them to go, we say, in the words of our text, “He has no understanding.” In other words, “God doesn’t know what He’s doing.”
Let’s shift gears for a moment and talk about the body and life God has entrusted to each of us. We confess with the Psalmist that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps. 139) Do you and I recognize that we are to be the caretakers of the body and life God has made and given to us? Do we recognize that we are to be good managers of our bodies and lives? As we heard in the Epistle lesson from Ephesians 5, we are to nourish and to cherish our own bodies. Maybe you know the old saying, “Junk in; junk out.” We are not to be filling our bodies and lives with the “junk” of the world, things like drugs, pornography, sex outside of marriage, too much alcohol, and too much food. Rather, we are to be filled with the Word of God, with His Holy Spirit present in that Word, so that we can be responsible caretakers of the body and life God has given us.
As you care for your bodies and lives, who or what then determines your relationship to the God who made you? The standards of people or the standards of God’s Word? What you hear and learn from the Internet, from Facebook, or from Twitter? What role do the Ten Commandments have in your life? Are they a set of outdated demands that you choose to ignore? Do you see them as rules you have to follow to get into heaven, or do you see them rightly as a guide to the Christian life under the freedom and the forgiveness of the Gospel?
These questions prompted from our text certainly give us a lot to think about. These questions remind us that we continue to sin and fall short of God’s glory. We continue to stand in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. But most importantly, what is so wonderful about our text from God’s Word is that, even though we ponder and confess how we have sinned, God comforts us with words of promise! “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:18-19 ESV)
God’s promise has been and will continue to be fulfilled by the work of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace in Word and Sacrament. The “sealed book” in the opening words of our text has been replaced by the “open book” of Holy Scripture with the message of God’s love and forgiveness revealed in Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and anticipated return. We who were once spiritually deaf and blind to the truth of God’s Word because of our sinfulness, we who once said with the people of Israel, “I cannot read,” have experienced the work of God the Holy Spirit in us through Word and Sacrament. “I was blind and now I see.”
The Holy Spirit has also opened our “deaf” ears to hear in the Word—and to believe and to confess—that we as sinners have been tied into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by the waters of holy Baptism. Romans 6: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Christ’s death on the cross is the death of our sins through the forgiveness bought by His blood and merit. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is our resurrection to the new life of forgiveness and faith in Him who died and rose for us to be our only Savior.
Out of the gloom and darkness of sin and eternal death we both see and hear in the Word of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the peace and joy that is ours in our Savior, Jesus. Peace and joy are ours in our Baptisms into Christ’s death and resurrection. And God renews His promises of peace and the source of joy for us by the very presence of the Lord Jesus in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. God again is doing “wonderful things” with His people, with wonder upon wonder—that by grace alone through faith alone we receive with the bread and wine the very real and true Body and Blood of Jesus for forgiveness, life, salvation, and the strengthening of our faith, enabling us to believe and confess the truths of God’s Word, not only with our mouths, but also with our lives and actions.
Wonder upon wonder—we see with the eyes of faith and hear in His Word that God has made us and continues to preserve us in body and soul. We strive with the help of the Holy Spirit to live each day as God’s special, wonderful creation, trusting Him who began a good work in us to bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
Wonder upon wonder—God the Holy Spirit fills us daily with His holy Word and the power of that Word so that we can live as responsible caretakers of the bodies and souls He has made. We honor God with our bodies and do not merely give Him lip service. We “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2Timothy 2:22 ESV)
And those who call on the Lord from a pure heart are the members of Christ’s holy, Christian Church, the communion of saints. As Christ’s Church we will then continue to believe and to confess the holy Word of God in the Bible as our sole source for faith and life. We will continue to believe and to confess that we are poor, miserable sinners who have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. We will continue to believe and to confess that God, in His grace and mercy, sent us His Son Jesus to die on the cross and to rise from the dead winning our complete forgiveness and new life, to open the eyes of the spiritually blind and to unstop the ears of the spiritually deaf. Finally, we will continue to believe and to confess that the Holy Spirit empowers our faith in Jesus and our holy living by sustaining us though the Word and the Sacraments. And to this confession and life, may we all say, “Amen,” “Yes, yes, it shall be so.”